Mysore Maharaja In, Pratap Simha Out — Why The BJP May Have Arrived At This Decision

Sharan Setty

Mar 14, 2024, 02:59 PM | Updated Mar 15, 2024, 03:21 PM IST

Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar (R) is contesting from Mysuru on the BJP ticket.
Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar (R) is contesting from Mysuru on the BJP ticket.
  • It is very uncharacteristic of both — Pratap Simha and the BJP — to let this play out this way.
  • On 13 March, Wednesday, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) announced its second list of candidates for the upcoming general elections.

    Karnataka's list has been awaited for almost a week, and the build-up has been getting the media circles to float all the possibilities.

    One of the biggest surprises that the party popped was the announcement of Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar — the Maharaja of Mysuru, as the candidate from the Mysore-Kodagu parliamentary constituency.

    This meant that the sitting MP Pratap Simha was losing out on the ticket. Supporters took to the streets, and online, to make their voices of dissent heard.

    Simha himself appeared before the media, hosted a Facebook live session and sent out cryptic messages — both, supporting the party for any decision that they may take, and also setting the expectations for the Maharaja even before he was officially announced. Although he did this respectfully, it may have not been received well among the people of Mysuru and the party leadership.

    Why did this sudden change take place? Especially when Simha was being credited to be one of the best performing MPs from the state?

    It's Not Easy To Write Him Off

    In 2014, Simha was fielded as a candidate after he was reportedly handpicked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. During Modi's term as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Simha wrote for a Kannada daily and even authored a book on Modi.

    Simha is credited for making the Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway a reality. His long list of achievements include other things like expansion and operationalisation of the Mysore airport, opposing Mahisha Dasara, being vocal about local issues and implementing the Jal Jeevan Mission in the city. He even changed the name of Tipu Express to Wodeyar Express — something that won him praise in the city.

    But it still does not add up. While there are rumours that his allegedly arrogant behaviour with some colleagues may have upset the party leadership, this may be true for almost every individual who holds power. No one is a saint or a sinner in politics. If anything, they are often both at the same time.

    It is very uncharacteristic of both — him and the BJP — to let this play out this way. Simha, with his experience as a journalist, knows how to address the media. He is seasoned enough to understand the power of his words. He also understands that the BJP does not tolerate fighting it out in the open. Not during a Lok Sabha election at least.

    The media theory that he has been dropped because of issuing those parliamentary passes doesn't hold up. If it was upset with Simha over that issue, the BJP could have acted against him well in advance. Why wait until the elections to axe him, when you could have done that when the sentiments were against him?

    It is not easy to write Simha off. There's genuine public support, if one discounts all the inorganic noises on social media and party cadre on the ground.

    If the party is planning to move him to state politics, then that transition will not be a smooth one. Almost every faction, across party lines, may have a problem with his entry.

    Mandya, Maybe?

    There is a slim chance that he may be fielded from Mandya.

    H D Kumaraswamy has already announced his intentions of not being keen on contesting from the seat personally. Janata Dal (secular)-JD(S) is also anxious about fielding Nikhil, and it will not reflect very well on the part of the BJP to be promoting two dynasts from a single party, with Prajwal already confident of securing a ticket from Hassan.

    Taking into account the hoisting of the Tipu flag, the controversy surrounding the Hanuman Dhwaja, and the gradual rise of Hindutva politics in the OMR region, it must be noted, with caution, that there exists a slim possibility of Pratap Simha being approached to contest from Mandya.

    Although Sumalatha Ambareesh, the incumbent MP from Mandya, has declared her support to the BJP, it may still not be good enough to persuade the NDA to give her a ticket to contest from the seat again. With the JD(S) being an alliance partner, Sumalatha's candidature may not have the blessings of the Gowda family, with whom she had a public spat during the previous elections.

    Sumalatha had won the Mandya seat riding on a wave of sympathy after her late husband's death. The JD(S) had fielded Nikhil Kumaraswamy, and despite resources being poured in, he lost the fight to Sumalatha.

    This is one reason why the JD(S) may not support her candidature. It was an embarrassment for the party, and they have been looking for an opportunity to unseat her ever since. This provides a perfect opportunity for Simha, since he happens to be a Vokkaliga, is considered close to the Gowdas and has a sympathy wave in favour of him.

    If Simha has played his cards right, and the party does decide to boldly take up a challenge, there exists a possibility, however tiny, of him being fielded from Mandya.

    This can be a perfect opportunity for both, Simha and BJP, to increase the saffron party's presence in the Mandya belt, which has been a headache for the BJP in the past.

    What The BJP Insiders Say

    According to top BJP sources, Simha was not getting along with the local BJP leaders, and is said to have "personal issues" that the Sangh wants him to address, before he is given more responsibilities.

    "It could have been even more ugly for Simha, but the party has chosen to give him another chance to rectify his mistakes. He has not taken along the leadership with him, and has been constantly covering up for it using the media as a shield to protect his image. There are many other MPs who have done good things for their respective constituencies, but they unfortunately are not tech or media-savvy. Hence they do not get so much of media attention and limelight.

    "Moreover, the Maharaja of Mysore was selected after much consideration. The fact that he declined to join the Congress and made it clear to Mr. Siddaramaiah in a meeting that he is ideologically inclined towards the BJP made it easier for the party to make this decision. He is well-educated, approachable, young (at 32 years old) and enjoys the goodwill of the people of Mysuru. So far as Simha is concerned, the party still cares about him, and wishes well for him, but Simha's reentry is likely possible if he takes some time off and reflect on his past behaviour," this source told Swarajya.

    Sharan Setty (Sharan K A) is an Associate Editor at Swarajya. He tweets at @sharansetty2.

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